When Hurricane Irma slammed into St Barth in the French West Indies last September, the media swooped on the shocking damage sustained by Eden Rock, the luxury hotel owned by Pippa Middleton’s in-laws and patronized by the rich and famous including Tom Hanks and Jennifer Lopez.
But winning greater sympathy from locals was the plight of one of the idyllic Caribbean island’s icons: Monique Giraud, known to all by her teenage nickname Poupette (“little doll”). Almost five months on, she is still dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane.
“It badly damaged Poupette’s home and our company headquarters in St Barth’s capital, Gustavia,” says Alice Bennahmias, the New York-based head of sales and marketing for Poupette St Barth.
She has been Giraud’s right-hand woman since the label synonymous with delectably feminine resort wear was launched in 1995. Today, it’s an international favourite, especially in its key market, the United States – retail outlets coast to coast – though it has a strong following in Europe (“mainly France, Germany and the Benelux countries”) and has recently expanded to Asia. Happily, production was not affected by Irma.
“Our collections are all hand-made in Bali,” says Alice. “We have a fantastic team of craftspeople who use traditional techniques for dyes and embellishments, so every garment is unique. Our primary fabric is high-quality viscose. We also use pure silk and have recently introduced an ultra-fine cotton.”
The emphasis on sustainability is an important feature, though Poupette St Barth’s essence is captured by the company logo: the frangipani. The fragrant tropical beauty delighted Poupette Giraud when she first arrived on the island from her native France in 1979 and her easy-wearing dresses and separates combine St Barth’s relaxed lifestyle and French joie de vivre.
Also French chic. Despite the profusion of vibrant colours and styles that range from tunics and jumpsuits to skirts and shirts – also some fetching lingerie – there is that innate Gallic classiness about each piece.
“Everything, including the fabric prints, is designed by Poupette. She is a true, self-taught natural,” says Alice, who moved from Paris to St Barth with her architect husband and their new-born baby not long before Poupette St Barth made its debut in a stylish boutique on the grounds of famed restaurant, Le Tamarin.
“Poupette was still importing furniture from Bali and India when we arrived and I was soon bored,” adds the sales and marketing chief. Little wonder. Suddenly, the young high flyer who had worked for the United Nations found herself coping with motherhood on a Caribbean island which may have been magical – “like an unspoiled Saint-Tropez with a Bohemian spirit” – but lacked challenge for her.
Then she met Poupette Giraud and the grand adventure began. “The label was a hit from the beginning and Poupette and I have worked together since she created her first collection,” says Alice. “We have a very loyal clientele including celebrities who holiday in St Barth where we have our flagship store.
“As well we have a store in East Hampton, New York and two in France – Cannes and Saint-Tropez – plus some 80 other retail outlets across the globe.”
That figure is likely to grow after Fashion Exposed Now, not least because of the latest enticements from Poupette St Barth.
“We’ve just launched our first swimwear range and it’s brilliant,” reveals Alice Bennahmias.
Visit poupettestbarth.com for more information about this stunning label.